Mizzou Advantage – Genetics’ Role in Obesity Epidemic

Mizzou Advantage – Genetics’ Role in Obesity Epidemic


>>A lot of people are surprised that their
body weight is so controlled by their genetics, and we need to, as public people in
the lay press, we need to understand that what someone weighs has
somewhat to do with their lifestyle, but an awful lot to do with their genes. It’s estimated that 60 to 80% of your body
weight is controlled by genetic factors. The rest of it is controlled by
the lifestyle that we choose. And obesity researchers like me commonly
use this analogy that genes loads the gun and environment pulls the trigger, and I think
that if you know that your family is at risk for diabetes and for being overweight, that
will help individuals know that they have to maybe change their lifestyle
more than someone who doesn’t have that genetic risk as well. Society tends to blame people who are
overweight and say that that’s their fault. And on the flip side when someone is very active
and lean in our environment, it’s actually kind of rare, and that person tends to give
himself complete credit for being lean in the current environment where
food is available all the time. So in the same way that you need to say, you
need to lighten up on people who are struggling with their weight and help them understand that
they’ve got a genetic component driver to this, we also need to understand
that people who are also fit, that they shouldn’t get 100%
credit for being lean. The dichotomy between whether or not my body
weight is driven by my genetics and I ought to just give up, versus I’m
completely controlling it, that argument really is the balance, and it
exemplifies all of the balance in medicine across all diseases that we have. And it’s the same in obese
and overweight individuals. They don’t have an out, oh, it’s just
your genes and you’ll never be thin. I think we need to stop thinking about
that and we need to give the message that your genes do play a role, and that
we should take that knowledge and manage that knowledge through lifestyle change. Obesity is the underlying condition that leads
to the majority of diseases in this country. Even now, obesity and cancer,
there’s a very clear link there. Heart disease, diabetes, it’s
even clear that body weight leads to increased risk of Alzheimer’s. How, we don’t know. So I think our focus needs to be on
making sure that citizens are healthier, and we’re doing that for a lot of reasons.

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